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Father Rayappan to Serve as Clergy Chair

John and Joan Schoonover, Sayre, are serving the Diocese of Scranton as regional chairpersons for the 2019 Diocesan Annual Appeal, representing Bradford, Sullivan and Susquehanna Counties while Father Philip Rayappan, Pastor of Holy Name of Mary, Montrose, is serving as clergy chair for the region.

Mr. and Mrs. Schoonover are parishioners of Epiphany Parish and members of the Pastoral Council, the Stewardship Implementation Team and the choir. The couple have three children and four grandsons.

"When we are truly grateful for all God's blessings, then we know that we must share them with others. God gives us gifts of time, treasure and talent and we, in turn, use them to serve others in His name," Joan Schoonover said.

The Diocese established the Appeal in 1987 to support vital religious and social service ministries which now include: Catholic Social Services; Catholic schools; clergy education and care; parish life, social justice and faith formation programs; and Catholic media and communications. The goal of this year's Appeal is $5 million.

"Giving to the Appeal is a great statement about where we should be and what we should be doing," John Schoonover said. "Please continue your support of your parishes and the Appeal and please encourage your friends and fellow parishioners to do the same!"

More than 4,500 students are receiving a quality, faith-based education in our 20 Catholic schools. Catholic education is at the center of our commitment to pass on the faith to our children and is supported by the Appeal.

Feeding the hungry and providing clothing and shelter to the poor are at the heart of the mission of the Diocese of Scranton. Gifts to the Appeal help Catholic Social Services serve more than 300,000 people each year and fund grants to parishes to provide programs in support of those in need throughout the Diocese.

Father Rayappan added, "Individuals who depend on the Diocesan ministries and services need our monetary support. We have a responsibility for this work to continue…We have to shine as Christ's light. We have to share our blessings through the Appeal and do our share, my share, because we love our Church!"

For more information on all of the Diocesan programs supported by the Annual Appeal, to view the Annual Appeal video in English and Spanish or to make a donation online, visit: Gifts may also be made by calling the Diocesan Development Office at (570) 207-2250 or by sending a donation to: Diocesan Annual Appeal, 300 Wyoming Avenue, Scranton, PA, 18503.

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BREA Out Again At Blue Ridge

By Ted Brewster

Once again, teachers turned out in numbers for a Blue Ridge School Board meeting on November 4th, most wearing black and white shirts emblazoned with the letters BREA, representing their union, the Blue Ridge Education Association. There was no picket line, no demonstration beyond their presence en masse.

The Blue Ridge Board and its teachers have been negotiating since early January on a new contract. Teachers are now working under a contract that actually expired at the end of June. President Chris Lewis has issued 4 public letters explaining the Board's positions, without any public response from the union. As might be expected, the major differences center on salaries and benefits, in particular, the contribution expected of the teachers for their health insurance plans. A subsidiary issue appears to be the use of seniority in making assignment decisions.

There was some apprehension that the meeting might be disrupted in some way, but such was not the case. The Board disposed of a 24-point agenda in barely more than a half hour, including awarding recognition to some outstanding students.

Elementary School Principal Danelle Decker wasn't able to introduce her choices for October in person, but identified them as Samantha Griffin, who plays the clarinet and hopes one day to become a zoologist; and Hospicio Martinez-Garcia, a lad with an active imagination and a taste for dragons.

Middle/High School Principal Casey Webster introduced her choices for outstanding seniors for October: Morgan Mansfield and Tyler Six. She also identified a pair of high achievers at the Susquehanna County Career & Technology Center (SCCTC): Garrett Peters and Raymond Lindquist. Alison Marshman was recognized as Athlete of the Month for October, and Morgan Mansfield collected a second encomium as Artist of the Month.

Much of the meeting's business agenda covered routine personnel items, including the resignation of Attendance Secretary Stacy Merrell. Other items:

  • The Board approved the payment of $1,385 in royalties for 3 performances of Fiddler on the Roof as the High School musical next spring.

  • They also approved the Pennsylvania Youth Survey for 2019, a biannual program of the state Commission on Crime and Delinquency to gauge student activity and behavior. Parents may choose not to participate.

  • Agreed to pay Government Software Services, Inc. of Honesdale 35¢ per mailer to prepare homestead/farmstead applications.

  • Agreed to participate in the Keystone Purchasing Network for the current school year; KPN streamlines the process for most routine purchases. They also authorized the administration to bid for items not available through KPN.

The Board approved changes to some of its policies, mostly minor amendments to clarify language or to comply with recent regulatory and legislative requirements. One of the policies, on professional development, includes new references to something called "trauma-informed approach education" which provides for training staff to recognize signs of trauma among school community members. Some other changes to the policy manual offered for a one-month review include material related to safety and security, and to relations with law enforcement, including the position of School Resource Officer (SRO).

As it happens, the Board also approved application to the county District Attorney for enhancements to its employment agreement for SRO Greg Deck. According to Superintendent Matthew Button, the administration thinks that additional training and responsibilities warrant a higher salary and benefits package for the SRO. Since the District pays all of the expenses for its SRO, there is little likelihood that the DA would reject the proposal.

A little early this time around, the Board approved a resolution that obligates it to contain its next budget (for 2020-2021) within limits that deny the possibility of a property tax increase beyond the state-defined index of 3.6%. The resolution allows a more leisurely budget development process, since without it, any increase higher than the index would require a vote by the taxpayers next May. The Blue Ridge School Board has not adopted a property tax increase of any kind for several years.

Mr. Button announced that the county United Way has made available $1,000 for a "nurse's pantry" that can be used to stock items for use in special situations. And Edward Arnold, the Board's safety and security maven, returned from a state conference with information about a new product termed a "vape detector" that can be used to inform the administration of the use of so-called vaping products in the schools, which practice he claimed is "pretty bad here in the school."

A parent asked about outdoor facilities for recess for Elementary students. Mr. Button said that he agreed entirely with the complaint, but that construction is making the playgrounds difficult to schedule. He said that he expects both playgrounds to be "fully functional" after Thanksgiving.

Mr. Lewis reported that the Board's negotiating committee had met with the teachers' representatives 3 times in October. There appears to be an impasse, but the sides are still talking.

The next public meeting of the Blue Ridge School Board is scheduled for Monday, November 18, 2019, a workshop to begin at 7:00pm in the cafeteria in the Elementary School. Workshops this time of year generally feature some sort of delicious soup provided by Food Service Manager Linda Cole-Koloski. Don't miss it.

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Thompson Township Opens Bids

By Lillian Senko

Bids were received and opened from the Request for Proposal advertised for propane, heating fuel and diesel fuel during the Supervisors monthly meeting held on November 6th. Three companies sent in paperwork but only two supplied bid prices. Mirabito only provided pricing on the over rack rate charge and service charge, so their bid was discarded.

There was no bid from KW Oil Company for propane; Ace Robbins Inc. submitted a price of 1.219 with a fifty cent over rack rate charge, capping at 1.499.

Fuel Oil pricing from KW Oil Company was 2.349 and Ace Robbins submitted a price of 2.1659 with a fifteen cent over rack rate charge.

Service charge for cleaning and maintenance under a service plan from Ace Robbins was two hundred four dollars and ninety-five cents per hour.

After review the Supervisors unanimously accepted the Ace Robbins prices for propane, fuel oil, heating oil and service.

Supervisor Rick Wademan stated equipment the Township was selling was placed on the Municipal Bid Website and they did not receive any bids on the generator. The 1995 Samsung loader received a bid price of twenty-five thousand one hundred fifty dollars which the Supervisors unanimously accepted. The screen received a bid price of twenty-three thousand nine hundred fifty dollars on the Municipal Bid, but a private bid from Mark Kitchen from Columbia New Jersey at twenty-four thousand dollars was accepted.

Supervisor Alex Komar said he received a call on the generator and someone will be coming out to look at it. If the person offers a decent price for the equipment supervisors agreed to let it go.

Seven trees came down during the storm that hit October 31st into November 1st, reported Supervisor Komar. He stated during his Road Report two sluice pipes were repaired and they put one in on Perry Road. The trucks are ready for the snow and the department is in good shape for the upcoming winter. Supervisor Komar said the township buildings passed the safety inspection provided by their insurance carrier EMC Insurance.

Emergency Management Report was given by Supervisor Jenkins who stated another training session will be coming up on November 12th at the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in Montrose. Supervisor Komar stated he attended the Skywatch Seminar, which was given by the National Weather Station out of Binghamton stated the program was very interesting showing the different weather patterns.

Supervisors unanimously approved the 2020 JHA Contract even though pricing increased by seventeen dollars and fifty cents per hour. They stated there are two companies who provide the Pennsylvania Uniform Construction Code and residents have their choice on whom to pick. The second company starting January 1, 2020 is Northeast Inspection Consultants (NEIC).

The next scheduled monthly meeting will be held on December 4th, all are welcome to attend.

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Great Bend Borough Accepting Donations

By Ted Brewster

Liz Landes appeared once again before the Great Bend Borough Council at its meeting on November 7th to report on her efforts to find funding to rejuvenate Lee A. Weigand Memorial Park, one of the little town's 3 jewels and the focus of her campaign to generate some spirit in the community. She is encouraging donations from the public, not to mention the Borough itself.

Ms. Landes organized a community party last July, and she is the energy behind Christmas in the Park, scheduled for November 23, sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars. A "Town Meeting" at the Borough Building on December 4 will be a forum to discuss ideas for the park and is open to anyone and everyone.

To purchase new equipment for the park, Ms. Landes's primary goal for the next year, she is preparing a grant application, and for that she needs to demonstrate community interest in the project. To that end, she and her group of organizers are distributing a simple survey to all residents, including Council members who were all asked to fill out the form as soon as possible.

She will need the support of Council because the Borough will act as agent for her group, collecting the funds in a special account. The Borough will also be the formal applicant and recipient of any grants she can get. She also asked Council for seed money in the form of a contribution from the town itself. Any outside government support she is likely to get will be in the form of a matching grant, up to about $60,000 in total, of which half would have to be raised locally.

Secretary Sheila Guinan said that the Borough's parks account still has a bit more than $3,100 remaining for the year. Council tentatively agreed to offer that to get the ball rolling, but did not take a vote, instead expecting to hear more later from Ms. Landes.

As long as Council was in a donating mood, they agreed to give $100 to the Great Bend Hose Company to help defray expenses of its fire prevention program last month at the schools.

There wasn't much movement on Council's project to renovate its "property maintenance" codes. Council would like to lure a codes enforcement officer from Susquehanna to help out, but are reluctant to pay for the number of hours he has requested, and there was a mixup about scheduling a meeting with him. A local volunteer was warned about the amount of training that would be required to be certified to undertake enforcement of the International Property Maintenance Code (IPMC) that Council wants to adopt.

B.J. Giangiulio of the H.A. Thomson company that handles the Borough's insurance made his annual appearance to review everything that the Borough needs covered. There were no changes of note.

Nor are there to be many changes in the Borough's budget for 2020, given a cursory examination of the spending plan created by Ms. Guinan. Revenue is expected to be up by about $40,000, including – with no increase in rates – increases in property tax income due to reassessments and transfers. The budget also expects a boost in the Act 13 "impact fee" revenue and income from leasing the Borough's police officers to New Milford of about $15,000.

On the expense side, there are to be very few changes. Police and street maintenance are the two biggest items in the budget. The Borough has 7 part-time employees, 4 of them on the police force. The police budget remains the same for next year, at $42,000, somewhat less than half of which is paid for by New Milford.

The new budget anticipates spending $6,000 more on the parks next year. Ms. Landes would surely be happy to see that, since $5,000 of the total of $16,000 is earmarked for playground equipment.

The next meeting of the Great Bend Borough Council is scheduled for the day following the "town meeting," so there should be plenty to talk about. Two town meetings back to back – such a deal! Try one on December 4 at 6:30pm, or the other on December 5 at the regular time of 7:00pm. Both at the Borough Building at Elizabeth & Franklin Streets.

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